A Spoon Full Of Sugar: Support & Advice For A Long Performance Career
The ambience and aroma of sweaty athletes clad in dirt and mud, or the squeaks and chirps of basketball sneakers are characteristics audiences associate with the pinnacle of a career in athletics. But, becoming versed in High Heels or Air Jordans, Aerial Rigging and humans lofted 40-50 feet in the air, for me, was much more enlightening. The magical nature and whimsy working with an internationally acclaimed troupe surpassed any experience on a field or court.
It has been a few years since I finished my life behind the curtains, but I wanted to share a few thoughts, as a healthcare professional, regarding the entertainment industry. With the grandiosity of today’s theatrical performances and the creative stimulus to push the human body to reach new artistic endeavors, why not talk a little bit about, maximizing you.
Many performance characteristics will likely challenge one’s body beyond its limits depending on the production.
A colleague reminded me, some venues are a younger generation’s folly. Recently, Wendy Whelan’s documentary Restless Creature, followed the ending of a 30-year career with the NYC Ballet. This rare and phenomenal glimpse of what it is like when the premier ballerina’s career mortality comes calling. An intimate look behind-the-scenes, gives perspectives, as friends, family physicians and physios help navigate the trials and tribulations of guiding the featured subject through the physical and mental rollercoaster ride of gaining control of what seems to be her final curtain call.
Each and every artist will have to face their own final “curtain call”, and quite simply, it may not be under your own terms. What will you do? Have you developed a skill set outside of the entertainment arena?
In my time working in the entertainment industry, what strikes me as most interesting from a medical perspective, is that many performing artists do not share the same view of health care as we do here in the States. Many artists from abroad are not accustomed to, and often are suspect of, having someone else tend to their entire health care needs. Let alone someone who falls under the umbrella of Artistic Staff. Cultivation of relationships is the single best aspect of working in the athletic/performance medicine discipline.
There is nothing more important than developing the trust of an athlete/artist, for the health care provider.
Some of the unique challenges are integrating culturally diverse medical expectations of say a Senegalese, Mongolian, Czechoslovakian and a myriad of other nationalities and ethnicities into an individualized, yet appropriate program designed to maximize and optimize performance capabilities. Although each of us is uniquely different, whether you are a contortionist or a cricket player, the same basic principles govern resolution of illness and injury physiology.
Should you find yourself with the opportunity to utilize the services of a strength and conditioning advisor or physiotherapist affectionately also termed “physio-terrorist”, by all means, UTILIZE IT! Understand exactly what their role within the organization is and how best can they serve you. Why all the fuss? LONGEVITY.
I think the biggest challenge and mindset change is “the show comes first” mentality.
By nature, today’s large-scale productions have a significant level of risk by design. With all due respect to the notion “the show Must go on”, I believe quite simply, “the show Will go on.” Allowing the artist to control their capacity to perform, while providing the best medical advice and making educated decisions goes a long way toward career longevity and trusted development of the performance medicine department.
The medical staff is not there to hinder your contractual obligations, they are there to maximize them.
Knowing the risks and rewards are paramount to the safety and successful resolve of, not only that evening’s performance but each and every performance.
As a person with the responsibility of ensuring the cast and crew safety, I always asked this “what is the benefit of missing a single or several shows, against weeks or months? What would I want someone to tell my son/daughter if they were in a similar situation?”
The mental strain and fatigue of working, traveling, questionable nutritional habits, stress and susceptibility to injuries and ailments are a natural and common occurrence for performers who envision themselves as “Superman”.
Ensuring your safety and livelihood comes with a myriad of challenges and at times, not everyone will agree. But, that is OK, as long as everyone is informed, educated and on the same page.
Today’s Sport Performance Professionals attempt to “squeeze out” every bit of ability only to gain tenths of hundreds of seconds in a sprinter, or find a way for the superstar to overcome injury to serve up that game-winning goal. But, how can this help a fire-breather, a hip-hop dancer, a lion-tamer?
Awareness, Balance, Clarity, Judgement, Perception, Proprioception, Reaction Time, Strength, Stress Reduction and Visual Acuity. To name a few.
A fraction of a second is the difference in whether a flyer and his catcher connect successfully or one falls perilously into the safety net. That split second is the difference in whether things go well, or horribly wrong. Whatever it may be, sports performance has its benefits within the entertainment industry and the only limiting factor is whether you, the artist, utilizes it to your best benefit.
Now more than ever, supporting research and literature surrounding healthier living and performance maximization are readily accessible and applicable for the every-day person and yes, even the Fire-Breather.
The goal of any great health care provider is to maximize the values and concepts for the individual. That would mean exploring cultural norms from a world-wide perspective and not simply resting on the local practice as the sole guide in patient management strategies.
As the performing arts continues to evolve, so does the medical care supporting the events and performances. The career you lead as an artist is only limited by the capacity for which you can manage your instrument, your body.
Just a “Spoon full of Sugar……”
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